The Freecycle Network Case Study

The Company

The Freecycle Network launched in the US market in 2003. They are the world’s largest international gifting community, with over 9.8 million members in over 5,000 worldwide communities covering over a hundred countries and 12 languages. The Freecycle Network is a private, nonprofit organization incorporated in the State of Arizona.

Back in 2003, the founder, Deron Beal, was working with another recycling nonprofit when he came across masses of items that people wanted to discard except they were not recyclable. These items – such as desks, PCs, beds and office furniture – were in perfectly good condition. Instead of sending these items to the dump, Deron sent an email to 30 of his friends, then he ended up setting up a listserv in Tucson for regifting these items which grew to over 800 members in no time. Since it took off like wildfire he decided to set up Freecycle.org so that other communities could do the same. The concept of Freecycle was born! 

 Future-proofing is the main reason we chose PubWise, we couldn’t afford to encounter another issue that significantly impacted our revenue. Instead of scratching our heads trying to figure out how to fix it, we now have an expert team at our disposal to guide us through the ever-changing ad technologies. 

Deron Beal, Founder

A year after its launch, Beal’s cyber-community had grown to more than 500,000 members in 1,500 cities, and by early 2005 had more than 900,000 members.

Here’s how it works. People can join a local Freecycle gifting group and either ask for items or offer them. Generally, items are older and/or used items cluttering up garages, lofts and sheds. By enabling people to regift, Freecycle is keeping over a thousand tons a day out of landfills and incinerators. 

Tens of thousands of items are gifted every day on Freecycle.org on a globally local basis. Each local group is monitored and moderated by a team leader and volunteers who ensure that postings remain family-friendly and free of scammers and spammers. Individuals are empowered to help each other, and to build a community on a globally local basis.

The organization and its founder, Deron Beal, have won an extensive list of awards and certificates such as Arizona Golden Rule Citizen Certificate; Organic Style Magazine, Top 50 people in the country, Environmental Power List and been featured in Time, the New York Times, ABC Nightline and People magazine.

Fun Fact

A 100 year old house was once gifted on The Freecycle Network. Property was purchased and instead of demolishing the home, the property owner gifted the house to someone who was willing to cover the cost of moving it.
An engagement ring was once gifted on The Freecycle Network after a breakup. The fiancee didn’t want to return the ring and she didn’t want to keep it, so she gifted it!

The Challenge

Technology plays a critical role in a non-profit organization, yet most non-profits don’t have funds for a huge team of developers. 

When Freecycle updated its website to a more responsive Single Page App (SPA), the new site was wicked fast but they had trouble getting ad units to work on their new site. Donations, underwriting and grants alone don’t fund the operating costs, so when this happened it created a crisis that had to be addressed immediately. 

The team was also about to launch an app for The Freecycle Network and needed a partner who could drive traffic to both their website and their mobile app.

The Solution

After having worked with PubWise’s AdX platform for years, they were the natural choice when The Freecycle Network needed to build programmatic advertising back into their website and needed to augment their technical resources with the PubWise expertise. Freecycle knew they could count on the team to be responsive to their needs, and had already witnessed PubWise’s ability to harness technology and machine learning. The Freecycle Network was relieved to maintain Single Page App (SPA) responsiveness while not being dependent on a big technology firm that wasn’t vested in their success.

The Results

In only a matter of days, the PubWise dedicated success manager streamlined the implementation of header bidding on www.freecycle.org and customized the configuration to meet the non-profits’ particular needs. Advertising revenue was back, and even better than before.  Year-over-year, Q1 revenue more than tripled and CPM was up 59% with a 23% increase in fill rate. The team could rest easy now that PubWise would keep their scripts up to date, and optimize identity modules, timeouts, and flooring management to maximize their advertising revenue. PubWise’s fully-observable programmatic advertising platform is now the window to The Freecycle Network’s advertising revenue. With predictive analytics built in, the team can spot changes in trends, identify up and coming partners and optimize their advertising revenue.

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